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Elgar: Symphony no. 2

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Audio CD, May 13, 2014
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Following his critically-acclaimed Elgar Cello Concerto recording with Alisa Weilerstein, Barenboim turns to the symphonies.

Barenboim first recorded the Elgar symphonies for CBS in the early 1970s with the LPO. He now returns with a re-kindled love of Elgar, following performances of The Dream of Gerontius as well as the Cello Concerto with Alisa Weilerstein in 2012 and with a new insight into these works borne of 40 years experience.

The Second Symphony is released first, in a 2013 recording with the Staatskapelle Berlin. The First Symphony will follow in 2015.

Barenboim is a passionate Elgarian: as a young man he worked regularly with Sir John Barbirolli, one of the greatest of all Elgar conductors (and Jacqueline du Pré s partner in the classic audio and visual recording of the Cello Concerto). He counts The Dream of Gerontius as one of his favourite works.

Review

To hear an orchestra with such a distinctive central European sound playing Elgar, and relating his music so securely to the wider late-romantic tradition, is one of the disc s great pleasures. --Andrew Clements, The Guardian (of the Cello Concerto recording)


1. 1. Allegro vivace e nobilmente
2. 2. Larghetto
3. 3. Rondo. Presto
4. 4. Moderato e maestoso

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
  • Composer: Edward Elgar
  • Audio CD (May 13, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B00ITUVDZ4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,592 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
When he first began to record Elgar as a young man, London resident, and husband of the cellist Jacqueline du Pre, Barenboim was a fish out of water, an emigré Argentinian-Israeli who placed himself in the company of native-born conductors. As great as Barbirolli and Boult were in Elgar, English possessiveness may have kept the composer's music from traveling abroad. Of course there was also his Edwardian aesthetic, too lush and tonal for modernist tastes, not to mention its imperial associations. That's all ancient history, however, and here we are in Berlin hearing the Second Sym. (not that I can think of a German or Austrian conductor who has recorded either of Elgar's symphonies - this must have been close to a premiere).

The PR blurb calls Barenboim a passionate Elgarian, and I must say that this is a gorgeous performance, recorded with such clarity that the orchestration reveals not the slightest hint of Brahmsian thickness. Even more impressive is Barenboim's grasp of the work's peculiar brand of late-Romanticism. The composer looked like a country squire ready to pursue snipe with his shooting stick, but Elgar was a Catholic who felt like an outsider. He said that he wrote out his soul in the Second Sym., and it exposes a good deal of inner turmoil. His emotional range in this symphony is as fervid as Schoenberg's in Pelleas und Melisande.

By the time Colin Davis released Sym. 1 and 2 on LSO Live, he was old and a touch staid. As authentically British as those readings are, Barenboim shows more finesse, variety, and color. His tempos are forward-moving in the first movement, with a rise and fall that feesl perfectly right. Amazon quotes the Guardian reviewer about how different Elgar sounds from a middle-European orchestra, but not to me.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Fountainhead on June 3, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have passionately loved the music of Elgar since my late teens, and during the course of the last forty years the two Elgar symphonies have steadfastly remained my absolute favorite works in the genre. In fact, it was Barenboim's initial recording of the second symphony in the early 70's (on CBS with the London Phil.) that hooked me on Elgar in the first place, and it has remained a cherished recording ever since. This is certainly one of Elgar's greatest compositions, a work both richly expressive and emotionally complex. Indeed, the schizophrenic nature of the piece, pitting lush opulence against darkness and pain, and feverish intensity against a haunted loneliness, is of an order that makes even Mahler (and I do love Mahler) seem tame by comparison.

When I recently became aware that Barenboim had re-recorded the piece, I was really anxious to hear it. Within a minute of listening to this recording, however, my heart started to sink, and it sunk lower and lower as the performance progressed. Something was seriously wrong here, and subsequent re-hearings have only confirmed my initial misgivings. On the surface, this new recording seems to have everything going for it: the recorded sound is gorgeous and richly detailed, and the members of the Staatskapelle Berlin play like gods. Indeed, from the standpoint of recorded sound and virtuosity of orchestral execution, this recording leaves Barenboim's earlier effort squarely in the shade. Barenboim is obviously a more experienced and seasoned conductor now than he was in the 70's, and one could point to countless details of balance and emphasis which are more adroitly handled in this new recording. It has the necessary flexibility of phrasing, and Barenboim's handling of the large overall structure is arguably more assured than before.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Martin B. Haub on September 18, 2014
Format: Audio CD
I had high hopes for this recording. I definitely did not like his previous take on this extraordinary symphony. But in the intervening years he has turned out some recordings that are top-notch and among the best ever done: the Beethoven symphonies in Berlin, the Schumann symphonies, a Ring cycle second to none, a thoroughly engrossing Brahms set, a dazzling Mahler 7th. So I expected this Elgar 2nd to join the list. Not a chance. The orchestral execution is superb - and the recording is pretty good, too. But the problems all stem from the podium. Too much control, too many exaggerated details - accents too hard, hairpins too wide. Near the end of the 2nd movement is a passage of heart-wrenching passion when done well - and that means a good dose of portamento in the strings. None here. Where Barbirolli can bring you to tears, Barenboim leaves you cold. Barenboim attempts to bring some real emotion to the ending of the symphony, but simply bringing the pulse to extremely slow isn't what's needed - listen to Boult, Barbirolli, Handley or others. In a catalog with some superbly played and conducted Elgar 2nds, any newcomer had better be extremely good, and this just isn't. The new Oramo on Bis is way ahead of this version. It's now clear that Barenboim just isn't a good match for Elgar. I hope he doesn't go on to the 1st.
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